Abu Dhabi ‘culture summit’ to consider universal challenges and opportunities

CultureSummit 2017, described as “the world’s first truly global cultural leadership forum”, kick offs in Abu Dhabi on 9 April. Around 300 delegates from more than 80 countries will spend a week at Manarat Al Saadiyat on Saadiyat Island discussing the role of culture and technology in addressing universal challenges. So not an easy week, then.

The participants come from government, the arts, philanthropy, heritage preservation, education, media, science and technology, so a multidisciplinary approach is a given. The list includes a lot of practising artists and performers, plus representatives of (mainly American) institutions and a (surprisingly small) smattering of biggish names like Irina Bokova (DG of UNESCO) and former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The likes of Tony Blair are not on the list, and there seem to be no active politicians or policy-makers either.

They’ll be covering a variety of topics “focused on answering how cultural tools can be used to help address significant international challenges and seize emerging opportunities”.

The CultureSummit (ugly name, that) doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all. True, there are some fancy dinners and five-star hotel rooms for all, but it does seem to be rather more than just another opportunity for Abu Dhabi to burnish its image; we’re at a point in human history when internet connectivity means global boundaries and cultural identities are blurring. We’re not far off a single global technical and cultural ecosystem, and there are obvious opportunities as well as challenges in that. With the invitee list we’ve seen, here’s a decent chance of the summit producing at least some good comment and maybe some good suggestions too.

The CultureSummit – which runs 9-13 April – is structured with morning plenary sessions and interdisciplinary workshops in the afternoons. The overall theme is ‘the creative mind of the connected world: culture as a change agent in the digital age’ which certainly sounds interesting enough, the topics for the plenaries look good, and the afternoon workshops are formatted around a QAA structure which ought to generate some actual outcomes – identifying Questions on day one, seeking Answers on day two, proposing Actions on day three, with workshop leaders presenting the results on day four.

Noura Mohamed Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of State for the Federal National Council, and Chairwoman of the Media Zone Authority and TwoFour54, spoke about the UAE’s emergence both as melting pot of nationalities and as a hub for culture, technology, and media. So Abu Dhabi is a reasonable place to hold the summit, even if it “further cements the UAE’s status as a prestigious international cultural destination”.

The event is presented by Abu Dhabi’s tourism and culture authority TCA Abu Dhabi in conjunction with The FP Group (publishers of Foreign Policy magazine) and the arts advisory firm TCP Ventures. More info including the agenda is here.

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